Rosenblum: Nostalgia back in fashion

  • Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2014 - 3:39 PM

Rearing teenagers is full of surprises, like when yours announces the one thing she wants for her birthday:


Wait. What? Birkenstocks are back? Those … practical sandals?

Right on cue, which means about five years after the phenom hit both coasts, the leather footwear is flying off shelves here. After being relatively flat in 2013, sales have jumped 51 percent since January among Schuler Shoes’ eight locations, said Leslie Butler, vice president of merchandising.

The increase is fueled, in part, by young celebrities slipping them on for the cover of Vogue — twice in the past year. But I sense something deeper going on.

Birks aren’t the only step backward of late. Ouija boards are being pulled from basement shelves. Drive-in movie theaters are experiencing a notable revival.

After years of running in packs of girls and boys, some teens are returning to old-fashioned dating. And some parents are returning to that old-fashioned, stay-in-your-room punishment called grounding.

Seems we just can’t get enough of nostalgia (for better or worse), and it’s more complex than pining for Nik-L-Nip Original Wax Bottles. (Google it, kids!)

These forays into the past are an understandable response to a wired world that can be rude and unruly, or at the very least, uncertain.

What better way to shut it all out than in a field watching a movie under the stars? As my colleague Sue Feyder reported, the Champions Outdoor Movie Theater in Elko New Market opened last week to great enthusiasm among young people eager to try the experience.

Champions is among a small but growing number of outdoor theaters benefiting from a longing for old-fashioned family activities.

But far from being stuck in a field — or in the past — those who embrace nostalgia tend to be happier than the rest of us. And better able to focus on the future.

“The general consensus is that nostalgia is beneficial,” said Krystine Batcho, a psychologist and professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y.

Batcho’s research on nostalgia dates to 1995, when she developed a “Nostalgia Inventory” to measure how often and how deeply people feel nostalgic.

Those who embrace nostalgia excel at maintaining personal relationships and choose healthy social ways of coping with their troubles. When they feel stressed, for example, they tap into previously successful strategies, such as turning to a trusted teacher or parent. If I overcame adversity before, they tell themselves, I can do it again.

When they feel a lack of self-confidence, they remember when they felt valued and loved for who they were and not for what they achieved or earned.

And when they feel uncertain about the future, they wipe the cobwebs off their Ouija board.

“Nostalgia also has been connected to an attempt to establish purpose and meaning,” Batcho said. “Why are we alive? What are we living for? What’s going to come next?”

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